Episode Title: "6B"
Writers: Glen Whitman & Robert Chiappetta
Director: Thomas Yatsko
Previously on "Fringe":
Years ago, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) traveled to an alternate universe and stole his son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) from his counterpart (nicknamed Walternate) initially with the altruistic goal of saving Peter’s life and returning him. But Walter’s actions led to devastation on the alternate Earth, including spontaneously appearing black holes and other destructive phenomenon which Walter saw first hand when he returned to save Peter’s life last year.
During their rescue attempt, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) was kidnapped by Walternate and replaced with her counterpart, Fauxlivia. Unaware that she wasn’t his Olivia, Peter pursued a romantic relationship with Fauxlivia. When Olivia returned to our world, it caused a major strain on even her professional relationship with Peter. Meanwhile in the alternate universe, Fauxliva discovered that she was pregnant with Peter’s child; which Walternate realized could lure Peter back to his home.
At the Rosencrantz apartment building, residents have come to believe that their homes are haunted by strange phenomena. And during a party, six guests seemingly commit suicide all at the same time by jumping off of the balcony. The following morning, Peter finds Walter making his world famous pancakes and realizes that he’s invited Olivia over under false pretenses to give them time together. After Walter makes his escape, Peter tries to get Olivia to stay for breakfast. But she tells him that she knows he still has feelings for Fauxlivia and that he wasn’t honest with her about it.
Peter counters by saying that his time with Fauxlivia showed him what being in a relationship with Olivia would really be like and he asks Olivia what’s stopping them from trying now that she’s gone. Before they can go on, they get called in to investigate the suicides… only to hear from Walter that the people died because the balcony floor simply blinked out of existence. He shows them signs that the laws of physics are breaking down around the building, which may be the first signs of a soft spot or a black hole vortex as seen in the alternate universe.
Walter becomes increasingly hostile as he orders the team to retrieve his old seismograph and another sample from one of their earliest cases together. While waiting outside to test Walter’s seismograph, Peter and Olivia duck into a bar and continue their conversation. She tells him that she wants to see what he sees in them together and they kiss awkwardly. Olivia’s fear activates her latent power and she sees the source of the disturbance. She and Peter race to apartment 6B where they find an elderly woman, Alice Merchant (Phyllis Somerville) and the apparent ghost of her husband, Derek (Ken Pogue).
When he hears the story, Walter denies the existence of ghosts, but he admits that William Bell was less skeptical. Alice explains that her husband of 45 years died a few months earlier when he lost a coin toss to check their fuse box and was electrocuted to death. His ghost appeared to her shortly thereafter. But Walter realizes the truth: in the alternate universe, the Merchants had the same apartment and the same coin flip led to the death of Alice on that side. Believing that a tear in the universe is immanent, Walter suggests ambering the building… the same solution Walternate has used for years in the alternate world.
Peter and Olivia come to the conclusion that it is the emotional ties between Alice and Derek that are tearing the universe a new hole and they get Broyles (Lance Reddick) to give them a few minutes to try to get Alice to break the connection before the building is ambered. However, the childless and otherwise alone Alice is unmoved by their argument that Derek isn’t her husband until she can hear his voice and he says that their daughters miss her. Realizing that the story that Olivia and Peter told her was true, she lets Derek go and the world is saved… for now.
Later, Walter confides in Nina (Blair Brown) that he fears that he is becoming more like his counterpart and now he understands why Walternate made the choices that he made. She then challenges him to find a better way to heal the universe. As for Olivia, she was so moved by Peter’s speech to Alice that she kisses him without fear and leads him by the hand to his bedroom. And in the other universe, Fauxlivia and Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) investigate a now missing rift on their end, but Derek denies seeing anything unusual before returning to a photo album of his wife and daughters.
I’ve seen a few complaints about this episode and I think most of the other critics were wrong. This was by far, one of the strongest episodes of the third season.
Admittedly, the so-called haunted building wasn’t the best Fringe case to date. But the character building between Peter and Olivia was really terrific. Though my favorite part of their first scene together was the way that Walter "Parent Trapped them" (to borrow a term from this week’s "Supernatural") and then made his practically giggling exit through the front door. I’m not a big fan of the robot like mannerisms of Olivia from the first season and her regression of late. But the rawness of her emotional wounds and Peter’s were really compelling.
The fact that they actually made multiple attempts to deal with their issues and get past them in this episode made it seem like really rewarding character growth. Of course we all know that those band-aids are going to get ripped off when she finds out that he impregnated Fauxlivia. But I suspect that Peter might have two kids on the way by then, if his current track record is any indication. Plus, it would only make for great drama if by having to pick between two Olivias and two universes he would also have to pick between his unborn children.
Walter’s arc is also really fascinating as he becomes more and more like the Walternate. And worse, he finds himself with a much better understanding of the man whose son he stole. The man who by his own admission, Walter believed was a monster… but he may simply have been faced with impossible choices to save his world before hardening his heart against it.
But the thing I loved the most about this episode was the implication that the "Fringe events" of the alternate universe are starting to show up in our world. That would be an amazing escalation for the series and may even prove to be Peter’s motivation for stepping into the Doomsday device down the line.
As I mentioned earlier, the one thing working against this episode was that the concept of the building where physics have lost their meaning wasn’t explored much further than the first act. The deaths of the people on the balcony was harrowing, but it was kind of glossed over by the end of the episode. There should have been more examples of how Alice and Derek’s love was essentially destroying their respective worlds. But Phyllis Somerville was very good as Alice and I could almost believe that her sorrow was strong enough to break the universe. I even liked the brief peak into the red universe at the end when we saw Derek’s own encounter with Fauxlivia.
After a few episodes that slightly dipped in quality, "Fringe" seems to be back on its game going forward towards the rest of the season. There’s only eight episodes left, but if the producers can maintain this level of storytelling than it may be one greatest years that any sci-fi show has had on TV.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.